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Emotional eating: Experts on tips to overcome it

ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi
Apr 24, 2023 02:17 PM IST

Find yourself munching to cope with unpleasant emotions, using food as reward or craving foods like sweets when worried? Here's how to overcome emotional eating

Emotional eating basically refers to eating in order to escape, alter or intensify your emotions where if you are an emotional eater, you might find yourself munching to cope with unpleasant emotions, using food as a reward when you're pleased and craving unhealthy foods like sweets when you're worried. Emotional eating is not your hunger quotient as it actually involves having more calories than you actually require since emotional eating is when a person resorts to eating food to curb the mood swings and it does have an impact but it is temporary where the empty calorie high fat, sugar and salt becomes your "go-to" food however, comfort eating, also referred to as emotional eating or stress eating, does not provide a cure for life's problems - it only functions momentarily.

Emotional eating: Experts on tips to overcome it (Photo by Artem Labunsky on Unsplash)

Even worse, if it results in weight increase, it creates long-term unhappiness. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Ridhima Khamesra, Founder of Diet Solutions, explained, “If you can identify the reasons behind this, you can quit this habit too. Does it make you happier, feel better, make up for a bad day or some mix of these? Having awareness of these cognitive processes can make it simpler to maintain willpower. Realising that emotional eating doesn't resolve the issue that upset you also helps.”

Manisha Chopra, Nutritionist, Dietician and Fitness Expert, elaborated, “Emotional eating leads to an increase in cortisol levels which leads to a rise in the Ghrelin hormone. The Ghrelin hormone can cause cravings for carbohydrates and sweets and hence causes inflammation, which ultimately results in high cortisol levels. So, this acts as a chain and results in an increase in appetite. One of the main reasons behind emotional eating is the comparison of oneself to others. Media plays a big role here. Social media has opened up such a world for us that leads to a desire for us to be like someone. Comparing oneself to others results in anxiety and stress, indulging us in emotional eating.”

According to her, other common external reasons for emotional eating may include:

  • Work stress
  • Relationship issues
  • Financial issues
  • Health issues

Asserting that we need a comprehensive approach to tackle this, Dr Ridhima Khamesra emphasised that POCE is a way to handle it:

1. Practice stress management and value yourself. Find out your key to managing stress like cultivating a hobby, seeking professional help, going to your friends or having a good support group helps.

2. Observe what situations push your emotional eating whether it is anger, hurt, happiness or deadline stress. In short find your trigger.

3. Carefully plan healthier snacking options to avoid zero calories foods like Chop vegetables for salad or make a pot of broth-based soup and keep it in store always. So that the moment you crave salt you have a hassle free solution at hand. Avoid starving yourself as hunger plus emotional distress is a bad combination and leads to many unhealthy choices. Stock your kitchen with healthy snacks like hummus and carrot sticks. Try keeping tempting low calories snacks that can satiate your emotional quotient.

5. Eat slowly and properly. There is a gap between stomach and brain. Sometimes by the time your brain gives you signal that you are done, you have already overindulged. So eat slowly and chew properly to get satiated early.

Recommending how to overcome emotional eating, Manisha Chopra recommended:

  1. Engage in relaxation practices that calm your body and mind, such as Yoga, meditation and journaling.
  2. Increase your exposure to the morning sun and take more barefoot strolls on the grass.
  3. If you don't have a strong support system, emotional eating is more likely to become your downfall. Rely on your loved ones and friends, or think about joining a support group.
  4. When you're hungry, choose for healthier options like fruits, roasted makhanas, or unsalted popcorn rather than reaching for fast food.
  5. Distract yourself and replace your unhealthy activity with snacking when you're not hungry. Visit a friend, go on a walk, go for a movie, play with your children/pets, listen to music, or read.
  6. Don't keep comfort foods that are difficult to resist at home.

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